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  1. Default Road Trip CA, OR, WA, MT, ID, on a very tight budget $1800

    Hi all,

    This is my first post, and I am very excited to share the road trip idea that me and my girlfriend are planning this summer.

    We are essentially planning to go from Southern CA, and visit the following destinations 1. Eugene OR, 2. Portland OR, 3. Seattle WA, 4. Spokane WA, 5. Missoula MT, 6. Boise ID, (Heading back through Las Vegas) 7. (At least 3-4 national parks along the way).

    Our budget for this insane trip is roughly $1800 (Give or take $300 for emergency expenses).

    The possibility of us running out of money is very real, as we are both grad students who have NEVER in our lives left the San Diego - Los Angeles area. We are in our late 20s and this is the first time we are going to be stepping foot outside of CA.

    We have been saving our money for four years to make this trip happen, and as I will be leaving for Ph.D school very shortly, this summer is basically the only opportunity we will have to make this dream happen.

    There are several concerns that we have, most revolving around keeping this trip as cheap as possible.

    1. We will have to sleep in our car at least 8-9/12 nights that we will be on this trip.
    2. Our budget absolutely cannot exceed $1800+$300 for emergency expenses.
    3. The total gas for this trip (Including about $120 for side diversions (i.e., national park driving, sight seeing, etc.) is $450. Which makes our realistic budget for the rest of this 11-12 day trip $1350.

    We are here to ask all of you for some advice to save money on our trip. Specifically relating to sleeping in truck stops, rest stops, and or maybe in parking lots. I know that we can sleep in our car in many of the national parks as long as we pay a camping fee, so that shouldn't be a major problem.

    Anyway to the major questions!!!


    1. Where would you suggest we stop to sleep in our car? Truck stops? Rest stops?

    2. Out of the cities we are visiting, which ones would you say we almost NEED to spend the night at a hotel? We can spend 2-3 nights at one, so our choices are limited.

    3. What national parks that you know of would be along the way on this trip?

    4. What affordable sights or places do you recommend we visit on our trip?

    If I come up with more questions I will be sure to ask. Thank you all! I hope to get some awesome replies soon!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,270

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    I hate to do this, but I'm going to burst your balloon. You cannot get any kind of good rest in a car unless you have a van with the back empty and an air mattress. You are setting yourselves up for a miserable trip if you try.

    What you should do instead is get some camping gear and sleep in a tent. A tent, sleeping bags, and air mattress aren't that expensive, you don't need top of the line gear for a 2 week trip.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Honestly, I think you are seriously overly worried about your budget. You've got a little over $100 a day, and that's after you've accounted for fuel costs. While you can't go wild with that amount, that's not a rice and beans budget either. If you stayed at Budget hotels every night (roughly $50 a night), you'd still have more than $50 each day to eat and cover all of your extras.

    As far as where I'd suggest you sleep in your car - I'd suggest you not even try. Proper rest is essential to having a good roadtrip, and that's just not possible with two people inside a car. If you insist, don't even consider rest areas - an extremely dangerous spot to spend the night. Truck stops are safe, but well lit and often loud - which leaves campgrounds as your best choice. However, investing a relatively small amount of money in camping gear would be much wiser than trying to sleep inside your car.

    As far as places you "need" to get a motel, that's completely up to you, but if you're looking to explore the nightlife in any city, that's a very good place to start.

    There's almost too many National Parks to list along your route, and a quick look at a map will point them out to you. A very quick list - Sequoia, Yosemite, Redwoods, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, Glacier, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. Really though, browsing some maps is going to give you a much better picture too work with.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    As Michael points out, your budget is not that bad. However, there are many ways to save money on a road trip, and sleeping in your car is not the best of them. It may pay you to spend some time reading through this forum.

    Along the way you will come across rest areas and truck stops where the hotel/motel discount coupon booklets are available. Check these out, there are some good deals to be had. Mostly they are for walk-ins only.

    Whatever you do, do not purchase your food and drinks in convenience stores or at fuel stops. Shop in regular supermarkets. Many of these have excellent variety of salads and/or meats available for a good meal.

    To safe even more though, I would second the suggestion to get yourselves a tent, sleeping bag and mats as well as a cooler to keep drinks cold and sandwiches for lunch. Even if you camp every second night, the money saved should be more than the cost of your equipment. State Parks and Forests as well as BLM lands have campgrounds which are generally around $20 - sometimes cheaper (even free). These are marked on good maps as little triangles or tents.

    One worthwhile expense is to make sure you have a roadside assistance package, such as provided by AAA (even the best maintained vehicles can break down) where you can also get good maps to help you in planning. Be sure to carry maps when on the road. An alternative is a good road atlas. Don't be tempted to rely solely on your electronics.

    The link above has many more suggestions. Enjoy your trip.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Reverse your direction.

    I have to echo what others have said, do not sleep in the car if you want a safe and enjoyable trip. Cheap camping equipment and Motels, or even a Hostel while in the City would be a good combination. I would also reverse your trip direction and then if you travel down the coast the Ocean and Oceanside scenic pull outs will be on your side of the road.

  6. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Southwest Dave View Post
    I have to echo what others have said, do not sleep in the car if you want a safe and enjoyable trip. Cheap camping equipment and Motels, or even a Hostel while in the City would be a good combination. I would also reverse your trip direction and then if you travel down the coast the Ocean and Oceanside scenic pull outs will be on your side of the road.
    Hi Dave,

    would taking the coast of CA cost us a lot more in terms of gas?

  7. Default

    I agree. You are going to have a wonderful trip! Don't worry about your budget. You need to be safe on this trip, and that means NOT sleeping in your car under any circumstances. Get your mindset away from rest areas, truck stops, and parking lots as none of these places are safe. Instead, as all are saying, invest in campground equipment, or even better, use those rest areas to get hotel coupon books for great deals and get a great nite sleep in a comfortable bed. This is very important when it comes a truly enjoyable road trip.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default

    Following the coast won't change your fuel costs, at least not significantly. It will, potentially, change the amount of time you've got available - as the coast is a much slower going option.

    It's worth it, but you'll have to decide if it is a priority for you.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,748

    Default Sometimes less is more.

    would taking the coast of CA cost us a lot more in terms of gas?
    As Michael said, it would no nake a significant difference, especially of a trip of this distance and you could see Redwoods NP, drive the Ave of the Giants and much more. Have you actually thought about creating a smaller loop that will reduce fuel costs and give you extra time from the car to enjoy the City's and National parks etc. Do you realise that you will spend half of your days in the car for long hours, or around 5 hours every day ? It's certainly doable but if you want to spend quality time in 3 or 4 NP's and see the city sites there is not much to 'play with'.

  10. #10

    Default

    Possibly think about couchsurfing as a way to cut on hotels. Just make sure to contact the references to make sure that it is a safe place to stay.

    California is going to be your most expensive state for gas prices. http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/todays-gas-prices/

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